To feel under the weather

Example in use: “How are you today?” “Not so good. To be honest, I’m feeling a bit under the weather. I hope I won’t be ill for Christmas!”

Meaning: To feel a bit sick or a bit sad or even a bit depressed. Not feeling 100%

Possible German equivalent: nicht ganz auf der Höhe sein

Possible origin: This expression appears to have a nautical background when sailors who were feeling seasick were sent below deck to recover. Below deck was considered to be the part of the ship which was more stable and therefore less likely to make the seasickness worse. The sailor or passenger would also literally be protected from the weather itself which could help them to feel better more quickly.

It is thought that originally, the saying was “under the weather bow” with the weather bow being the side of the ship which is exposed to the bad weather. There is also some talk online about the correct original phrase being “under the weather rail” which is where sailors went to rest. The bow of the ship is actually the front of the boat and the part which would actually be heaving more than any other.

As always with very old idioms, it is unclear which source or original meaning is correct. However, being below deck, you were literally, “under the weather” so to speak!

There is another possible explanation for this phrase, more directly related to the weather itself. Weather is known to have a strong impact on not only how people feel in themselves – bad weather makes many unhappy or even sick – but only makes them vulnerable to catch illnesses if there is something going around. In the bad winter weather for example, people can catch colds or influenza while hot summer weather can bring on allergies or summer colds. This second explanation seems less likely to be the origin of the idiom but today, I think that this is definitely how most people feel and especially at this time of year, many of us feel a bit “under the weather”!

Weather / ˈweθə


Welcome again to our weekly series that hopes to go behind the scenes of some rather typical English expressions.